Don’t Look at Me
Do not look me directly in the eyes or face when we talk. Out of my brotherly loving kindness I will do the same and that is how it should be. For me, that counts as polite, because among primates, direct eye contact is a challenge, a threat, and a precursor to physical aggression. Among humans it is all of these, plus just plain rude, too. Obscenely rude - like talking about money. Or, that’s what I think, anyway.
It is commonly said that in American culture it is taken as a sign of polite social behavior to look a person in the eye when you are speaking. It constituters acknowledgment of their existence and a validation of whatever it is that they are saying reflected in the attention you are paying to them as they speak. Also, to shake their hands when introduced (and, more and more, to grab arms, pat shoulders, or even hug), and to use each other’s first names as a sign of familiarity and friendship, or at least friendliness. I say bollocks to all that. First, unless you are a family member, using a person’s first name is incredibly rude. Second, under current laws, unsolicited physical contact of any kind - any kind of touching including hand shaking - may count as sexual assault. And, third, the eye contact thing is rude, threatening and dangerous for the reasons already given. So all-in-all, it means that if these are the hallmarks of American social courtesy then it paints a pretty grim picture of American culture. I do not think they are things that merit imitation, and they contribute to the international reputation of Americans for gauchness and rudery. In other words, let’s all cut it out.
When I speak to people, or they speak to me, I look at their ears, their hair, the knot of their neckties, etc. Never directly into their eyes except momentarily, in passing as my eyes pan their faces while I am turning my head. For me, it all started in junior high school and my English Grammar teacher. I spent a lot of time staring at his necktie knot. Mr. Chalmers was also the headmaster of the private boys school I was attending, and he was a fierce-looking, intimidating man. The kind of dominant ape who rules his ape herd by his aggression-threatening stare.